Hurry And Wait: Commissioners Warn MA Sports Betting Will Take Time

Written By Matthew Waters on August 4, 2022
MA sports betting

Though Bay Staters might be getting excited now that there is a bill for legal MA sports betting on the governor’s desk, it might still be months before those wagers are placed.

The excitement to see these legal Massachusetts sportsbooks launch will have to be tempered, multiple members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Thursday.

“I’ve seen some quotes in the public and others that they hope to have this thing up and running in a very, very short amount of time,” Commissioner Bradford Hill said. “And I just want the public to be clear, at least from my view, I’m not speaking for the whole commission but from my point of view, this is going to take a little longer than people probably anticipate.”

October MA sports betting launch suggested by senator

Hill did not offer specifics about the “others” who have commented on quick timelines, though Sen. Eric Lesser appears to fall into that category.

Lesser hopped on a local radio program Tuesday for a victory lap on the bill he helped negotiate through the conference committee. His comments sounded a bit overzealous, though, even without Hill’s tempering:

“They’ve told us in the past it’ll take about 90 days for them to do that. We’ve been actively kind of talking to them and they’ve been following along so they should be basically up to speed on all the different components. So you’re talking about maybe October that the whole thing can be up and running. Pretty soon, and definitely for the fall football season.”

Hypothetical timeline suggests otherwise

The commission included a sample timeline in its meeting materials that suggests a five-month process to get the competitive mobile licenses awarded.

Only seven of the 15 potential mobile licenses will be competitively bid, meaning retail betting and skins from those retail operations could launch on a different timeline.

The commission has been preparing for legalized sports betting and is looking at ways to speed up the process. That could include emergency regulations and examining what companies have done in other states to aid in provisional licensing. Still, patience by the public was stressed:

“This is something we would like the public to pause on, that at this very moment while that bill is on the governor’s desk, there is no vehicle to place a legal sports wager in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Chairwoman Cathy Judd-Stein said. “There are nefarious operators who may still seek to gain customers in this time of transition.”

When could sports betting launch in Massachusetts?

No one gave a firm date for when sports betting in Massachusetts is anticipated to launch at Thursday’s meeting.Baker still has to sign the bill before any the commission can actually get to work.

Legal betting could be pushed into 2023, which means missing the vast majority of the NFL betting opportunities during the regular season. Betting on the Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 12, should be achievable even for the competitively bid operators.

The timeline for the three casinos, two simulcast facilities and their mobile operators might be different. The commission plans to hold a roundtable with those stakeholders soon after the bill is signed.

Bid details outlined

Applications for those seven mobile-only licenses will be judged on 13 criteria. The first seven are worth 10 points each:

  • Experience and track record of successful mobile sports betting operations.
  • Ability to comply with sports betting laws and regulations.
  • Investment in responsible gambling programs and an effective governance and compliance program.
  • Demonstrated financial stability to compete in the MA sports betting market.
  • Internal control plan.
  • Demonstrated good-faith efforts to interview a “reasonable number of minority and women investors.”
  • Maximization of sports betting revenue.

More bid criteria

The other six judgment areas are worth five points each:

  • Ability to launch sports betting within a reasonable time after receiving a license.
  • Current and new jobs created by sports betting.
  • Commitment to making investments in Massachusetts.
  • Uniqueness of proposed sports betting business.
  • Responsiveness by the applicant to requests of the Commission.
  • Is awarding this license in the public interest and consistent with the law?
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Matthew Waters

Matthew Waters is a reporter covering legal sports betting and the gambling industry. Previous stops include Fantini Research and various freelance jobs covering professional and amateur sports in Delaware and the Philadelphia area.

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